Irvine to partner Schumacher at Ferrari

Formula One's transfer market produced a genuine surprise yesterday when Ferrari named Northern Ireland's Eddie Irvine as the driver to partner Michael Schumacher next season.

Only last Thursday, Irvine and Rubens Barrichello were "confirmed" as Jordan-Peugeot's pairing for 1996, while Ferrari planned to test four Italian contenders today. McLaren-Mercedes' claim to David Coulthard had put him out of the equation but two other British drivers, Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert lay in wait.

The Italian team decided, however, to move in for Irvine, the 29-year- old at last shedding his "irresponsible" label and establishing himself as one of the quickest and most respected drivers on the Grand Prix circuit. He has a one-year deal with options for a further one or two years.

Talks began at last weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix and the agreement, including compensation for the remaining two years on his contract with Jordan, was signed at a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. It is understood the transfer fee is $5m (pounds 3.3m) and that Irvine will earn almost as much next year.

Irvine, who made his Grand Prix debut, with Jordan, less than two years ago, said: "I'm a bit sad to be leaving but every driver dreams of Ferrari. It's an opportunity I didn't want to miss and I'm very grateful to Eddie Jordan for allowing me to take it."

Jordan, the team owner said: "Five days ago we thought our plans for 1996 were finalised. That situation has obviously changed. We're sad to lose Eddie but we would never stand in his way. There is a mechanism in Irvine's contract for situations such as this and he goes to Ferrari with our blessing and best wishes."

Irvine, who already drives a Ferrari road car, is regarded as something of a maverick. His personality, as well as his pace and combative style, doubtless influenced Maranello's decision. The signing of Schumacher received a lukewarm reception among motor racing's biggest and most passionate following, coming as it did at the expense of a much-loved Jean Alesi, who, it is understood, was yesterday fined pounds 132,000 for criticising team chief Jean Todt following the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Irvine, from Newtownards, has a dubious privilege driving alongside the single-minded world champion but he declares himself in awe and fearful of no one. He said: "Michael has proved he's the best driver in the world and he will no doubt be a tough nut to crack, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. The prospect of driving alongside him doesn't scare me. Whether I can beat him will be revealed next season.

"I've already spoken to Michael and the two of us will be working flat out to make Ferrari world champions. I've been assured equal equipment and the pair of us will be allowed to race freely."

Irvine demonstrated his irreverence in his Formula One debut, at the 1993 Japanese Grand Prix. He made life difficult for Ayrton Senna, who subsequently threw a punch at the newcomer.

More controversy awaited Irvine at the opening round of last season's championship. Found guilty of causing an accident, he received a one- race ban which was extended to three on appeal. He claimed he was falsely portrayed as "a nutter".

This year he has repaired his reputation and although his best result is a third place - ironically behind Alesi, in Canada - he has regularly outpaced Barrichello, another of the earlier candidates for the Ferrari job. Herbert, released by Benetton Renault, and Brundle, currently with Ligier Mugen, will now be in contention to replace Irvine at Jordan.

One Italian in demand is Gabriele Tarquini, called up by Tyrrell-Yamaha, for Sunday's Grand Prix of Europe at the Nurburgring. He replaces Japan's Ukyo Katayama, who has been ordered to rest after crashing in Portugal last Sunday.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back